Monday, April 11, 2016

La Medina Restaurant - Fez, Morocco

One of the issues with restaurant food in Morocco is that the guides take the tourists to high-priced restaurants and get a free meal, if not also a cut of the bill. We tried to address that issue with our driver one day, offering to pay for his meal if he would take us to a non-tourist restaurant. His response was that he would do it if we wanted, but the cheaper places often put the same food out the next day if it did not get sold the day before and the odds of our getting sick were greater. We caved and did not make it an issue. 

Abdul Aissaoui, our guide in Marrakech, was the one exception. He took us to a non-touristy restaurant (where we ate sheep's head) and ate with us and it was our favorite meal of the trip. 

That said, we had some decent food, and the best of our non-riad meals, other than the one just mentioned, was in Fez at La Medina. La Medina had a very nice interior with elaborate tile and other designs. We opted to eat on the roof and had a nice view of the medina. 
This sign was hanging at the end of the street. 
The large front door opening in from the alley.
The initial view through the front door.
Part of the very nice interior on the ground floor.
Virtually every meal in Morocco had three courses. The first course was a salad or salads, the second course was the main dish, usually a tagine of some sort, and the third course was dessert, usually a variety of fruit (a banana, an orange and an apple). 

The first course salads at La Medina were the best of our trip, as a whole, even better than our riad salads. We got seven. 
Seven salads.
One was green olives in a spicy chile sauce. A little went a long way, but they had a nice kick to them. My favorite, was a potato salad, with some corn, mayonnaise and chives. I ate what Judy didn't and would have eaten more. The boiled potatoes had a wonderful texture. One salad had white beans in a tomato based sauce and was very bland. One had some kind of squash, with a light green outside, and a reddish chile sauce. It had a little bit of bite and was nice. One was cauliflower with some red chile sauce and some kind of thickener, perhaps mayonnaise. The Moroccans do a good job with cauliflower. It was good. One was a mish-mash of ingredients that included tomatoes, green chiles (kind of like our Anaheim chiles) and eggplant. It was mild, but one of the best types of this salad we had (this was one of the most common salads). The last salad, that I don't remember specifically, looks like it has mashed cauliflower and some other ingredients I can't decipher. It was a little more runny and nothing that was memorable. 

As a main course Judy got a pastilla, also known as bastilla, filled with shredded chicken, potato and other vegetables. 
Our guide, Hassan, suggested that this was what the restaurant was known for. When we took our cooking class in Marrakech, we were told that the best pastillas in Morocco were found in Fez and I'm reading that the "national dish of the city of Fes" is the pastilla. Pastilla was a dish created in Andalucia (southern Spain) during the Umayyad occupation. It has a crunchy outside layer of toasted and ground almonds, cinnamon and sugar. The filling is made the day before by browning the meat in oil, then cooking the meat in oil, onions, water, parsley and various spices. The liquid is then chilled and thickened with beaten eggs to form a custard-like sauce, then chilled overnight. It is an amazing experience of very crisp, very, very sweet outside, with nice, savory inside. It is part dessert and part main course. 
Inside view of the pastilla.
I got nice fatty lamb, cooked in saffron or turmeric, as it was quite yellow, with couscous and reddish olives. I also had a little pile of mixed salt and cumin (lamb was almost always served with salt and cumin). I could have eaten lamb at each meal and been happy. 
Lamb, olives and couscous.
Dessert seemed pretty mundane at the time, but very good: orange slices, bananas and strawberries, with sprinkled cinnamon and sugar (perhaps honey). We later found that most desserts were just unpeeled bananas, oranges and apples. This was much, much better than that. 
Overall it was a very nice meal. We probably ordered a large bottle of water, and perhaps orange juice (I didn't write it down and don't have pictures). The bill came to 520 dirhams, about $52.00, including a 10% tip. It is about what we paid in the riads for a dinner meal for a similar amount of food. By contrast, our bowl of snail soup purchased in the souk was $.60 each, or about $1.20 for both of us (which is not really a fair comparison as it was not an equivalent amount of food and it did not have the same ambiance or facilities). 


  1. That pastilla looks very tasty.
    The first pictures of the ground floor are very impressive.

  2. I think the tour guide lunches peaked here and went downhill thereafter. I did think the cinnamon and sugar coating on my meat and veggie-filled pastilla was a little weird. It was fun to try, and the meat inside was good, but the combination of sweet and meat was not my favorite.